How the left has reacted to the possible return of Boris Johnson

'We can’t continue to see Parliament as a personal plaything of those on the Tory right that want to enact the policies that they’ve been doing.'

Boris Johnson walking up a set of stairs smiling

Boris Johnson, the man ousted just three months ago following a mass walk-out by his own ministers, could join the race to be the next prime minister.

Quite unbelievably, it was only last month when Boris Johnson finally handed in the keys to No 10. But after an extraordinary turn of events, culminating in Liz Truss’s resignation, he could be back.

The Times has reported that Boris Johnson is attempting to make a political comeback by challenging Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt for the Tory leadership. According to the newspaper, the former PM has assembled the support of dozens of Tory MPs, former donors, party activists and the team that helped him to win the election in 2019, as he attempts to make it to the final two of the Tory leadership contest.

As the rumours swirl that the former prime minister could be making a return, and he’s tipped to have the backing of more than 100 Tory MPs, we look at how his opponents have reacted to what could possibly be the biggest twist in the Westminster drama.  

‘Waves of revulsion’

There will be a ‘wave of revulsion’ across Scotland is Boris Johnson is returned to No 10, said the SNP’s Westminster leader. Calling for a general election to be held, Ian Blackford voiced dismay at the prospect of Johnson’s return.

“There’s real concern that the Tories might want to foist Boris Johnson back onto us again – I think there will be a wave of revulsion throughout Scotland,” he said.

“You really have to think that the Conservatives have learned nothing as to what we’ve gone through and the reason why Boris Johnson had to be swept from office.

“We can’t continue to see Parliament as a personal plaything of those on the Tory right that want to enact the policies that they’ve been doing,” Blackford told BBC Radio Scotland on Friday.


Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon described the former prime minister plotting a return to Downing Street as ‘ludicrous.’ Sentiment shared by Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie, who said it would be “preposterous and ridiculous.”

Owen Jones, the left-wing Guardian columnist, said even a divided nation can agree on one thing – the “return of Boris Johnson would be unforgivable.”

The Labour leader Keir Starmer said Johnson is ‘unfit’ to return as prime minister and that the notion of reinstalling Boris Johnson in No 10 is a clear argument for a general election.

‘Absolutely absurd’

Angela Rayner said the idea of Johnson retuning was “absolutely absurd.” Speaking to Sky News, the deputy Labour leader gave a strong warning for Tory MPs that may be considering backing the former PM:

“If that’s their solution to this problem, then they’re going to get even more thumped at a general election, because the British public do not like being taken for fools.” 

It’s not just the opposition who have reacted aversely to the possible return of Johnson. A number of senior Tory figures have warned that going back to Johnson could permanently split the party.

A coordinated effort has been launched within Tory ranks designed to put the brakes on his political comeback.

Former Conservative leader Michael Howard warned Johnson’s return would only result in more “psychodrama” for the nation.

One MP who was formerly loyal to him said: “The party will rip itself to shreds under Boris.

“MPs are already saying they’d defect or resign the whip. It just won’t wash.”

Another MP said: “I will stop Boris at all costs. If he wins, it means the end of the Conservative Party.”

A third said they were determined to vote tactically against Johnson, and might leave the party for good if he won.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of backbenchers, confirmed the leadership contest will conclude by October 28. No candidates have officially put themselves forward, but MPs are already going public with their favoured contenders for No 10.

Jacob Rees-Mogg became the first cabinet minister to publicly declare his backing for the former PM, posting on social media: “I’m backing Boris #BorisorBust.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Image credit: Number 10 – Creative Commons

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